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Development for development sake? 

The word ‘development’ has become a household terminology and everyone associates with it one way or the other. On the other hand, ‘development processes’ have confused us. ‘Development results’ are often articulated in numbers, indices and abstract terminologies, and presented in glossy pile of documents, which are almost always distant from the ground realities for whom it is sought.

What is development then? The answers might be different. But its richness lies in its complexity to execute. How do we develop ourselves, our societies, our communities and how has such interventions made people’s lives simpler, easier and comfortable. Therein lies true development!

We have often heard and read during our lifetime that people should be at the centre of development; that development should be people-focused, etc. Certainly, this is how it should be …but more important is the benchmark to determine ‘real’ development.

Development is often measured in terms of numbers. There is nothing wrong with this process. But numbers don’t determine development, they only speak volumes.

The process of development is long and complex. For instance, the building of schools and roads, and the installation of a water tap ignites the process; ensuring quality, safety standards are steps to brighten the ignition. True development is when we are able to see and feel every school going child has received quality education; every man, woman and child is able to use the road facility and benefit from it – that is when the light has lit to its fullest!

Often in development, we tend to focus on the process and sometimes undermine the end result. For a service provider, the number of water taps installed is important, but has the sheer number of water taps helped the community if there is no free flowing safe drinking water 24/7? This is where we fall short of fully executing the word development. While we can see the process of development, we should be able to ‘feel’ true development.

For any development to succeed, both the service providers and the recipients should be aware, ethical and accountable. For instance, if the demand is for a stretch of road in Trongsa, the providers should be able to build a road that is accessible throughout the year making it simpler, easier and comfortable for every woman, man and child to travel, and transport their goods as and when needed. Meaning to say that other amenities such as the availability of public transport, properly located bus stands, etc. should be taken into account. There needs to be a degree of accountability and responsibility on both sides to reap the full benefits of that facility. Having a stretch of blacktopped road is an infrastructural development. True development is when people are able to use the road every day of the year and with it have the confidence to expand their livelihood. One should be able to see more farmers in Trongsa resorting to growing high value crops for markets in Thimphu and beyond. Public transport system should be the choice of the people including government workers and private entrepreneurs in the capital to travel to their village in Trongsa for the weekend, and vice versa.

Likewise, a school would serve the community best if it is able to deliver quality education, thus laying the foundation for every child to compete in the global market. And if the quality of education of every such school is maintained at the same level, every single child and every school can aspire for high returns, no matter where their location. True development will deliver enough quality services with the highest level of efficiency and reliability to the people in need. Both the service providers and the recipients are equally responsible for this.

As Bhutan gears up for the third parliamentary elections, let us not forget our duties as responsible citizens to talk development in its real sense and not just for development sake.

Contributed by Sunita Giri

The author is a former BBS journalist and a development worker with the United Nations.

Disclaimer – The views are my own and have no bearings on the institutions I worked.

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